Manufacturing, and the need to maintain and develop Connecticut’s manufacturing base, remains a primary focus for Connecticut’s congressional delegation even as industry analysts show a shifting manufacturing landscape in the state.
When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced earlier this month that the state could access more than $1 billion under the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, every member of Connecticut’s delegation in Washington chimed in.
“It is my sincere belief that, given the proper training and resources, Connecticut workers can out-build and out-compete the rest of the world,” Rep. James Himes, D-4th District, said, echoing a common sentiment among his colleagues, though analysts say much of the state’s manufacturing workforce has been lost.
The number of manufacturing jobs has continued to decline. Analyst and publisher Manufacturers’ News said in 2014 that industrial jobs in Connecticut have fallen 6.2 percent since June 2009 — while manufacturing employment overall in the United States rose by 3.4 percent during the same time period.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, Connecticut lost 96,383 manufacturing jobs — 37.2 percent of the total number of manufacturing jobs available in the state — in the 20-year period ending in 2014.
During a “Make it in America” hearing convened earlier this month by Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MD, Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said, “Manufacturing has long been the backbone of our economy. We must support our manufacturing and innovation ecosystem.”
“Connecticut is home to more than 5,000 manufacturers, and many are small businesses supplying manufactured goods to our nation’s infrastructure, aerospace, and defense industries,” she said.
Back in March, Esty introduced H.R.1441, the “Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015,” intended to make funds available to up to 25 schools identified as manufacturing universities. The measure has not come to the floor for a vote.
Esty is not alone. Sen. Christopher Murphy, for example, visits and highlights a different business each week, calling them “Murphy’s Monday Manufacturers.”
“Connecticut manufacturers are investing time and resources into our workforce, and they’re leading our state’s economic recovery because of it,” Murphy said recently, when he visited Colchester’s Alpha Q Inc.
Murphy recently decried the July 1 expiration of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which he said has made more than $1.1 billion in insurance, credit, and loans, available to Connecticut’s aerospace industry since 2007.
“Connecticut’s aerospace manufacturing economy cannot afford any further delay by Congress on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank,” he said. “The Ex-Im Bank is a critical resource for Connecticut’s aerospace exporters and manufacturers who rely on it for export financing each year, and these companies create thousands of jobs with Ex-Im financing.”
There are some rays of hope shining down in the region’s manufacturing outlook. An April 2015 report by Deloitte Consulting and the New England Council found that advanced, high-skilled engineering jobs are on the rise in New England, and specifically in Connecticut.
According to that report, of the state’s manufacturing jobs, almost 72 percent are “advanced,” the highest percentage in New England in large part due to the concentration of defense and aerospace-based companies.
“Despite the difficulties of the recession, advanced manufacturing has proven to be a resilient sector of the community,” the report says. “The industry has been able to return to, and in some cases surpass, pre-recession levels for shipment value, GDP and employment, while traditional manufacturing has struggled to rebound.”
The role defense plays in Connecticut’s manufacturing landscape has not been lost on the state’s Washington delegation. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, for example, has been a strong supporter of Electric Boat and Eastern Connecticut’s submarine-building industry.
The sale of aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky has been closely watched by Connecticut’s representatives in the House and Senate, and when the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership designation was made public, Sen. Richard Blumenthal called it “a powerful recognition of the ingenuity and vitality of Connecticut’s aerospace and shipbuilding industry and its skilled and talented workforce.”
Or, as Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District said, “As the ‘Arsenal of the Republic,’ Connecticut has a long and proud history in manufacturing.”
Jordan Fenster can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.